THE Prime Minister yesterday said he has not discussed with Finance Minister Colm Imbert recent claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that Imbert did not declare his interest in an apartment block nor recuse himself when piloting a bill in Parliament to give tax breaks to such projects.
She later asked if Imbert had begun construction before getting planning permission for the 20-unit block at Picton Street, Port of Spain which she valued at $55 million. Dr Rowley’s disclosure came at a briefing to mark his return from a US trip which he held at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
He said he would not be distracted by an Opposition strategy of expressing concerns to seek information to damage the Government. “All I’d say is until you get your concerns and questions answered, you’re not going to engage me in that.” He said Persad-Bissessar would not be a source of guidance for him.
“Did she declare her interest when she took silk, which is of great benefit to her? She gave herself silk (and) could double her pay as a lawyer.” Rowley said when MPs had to vote on a pay hike, none gave up their right to talk and left the chamber. “There’s a way to interpret these things.
“Let her make the specific allegations on the part of the Minister of Finance and when she makes a specific allegation of wrongdoing then I can look at it, but in the meantime, I’m not going to go after a fishing expedition.” He said he once made an unflattering description of the Opposition Leader and still holds that opinion. Reporters asked if he had any details on the apartments.
“I have not raised the matter (with Imbert.) If the Opposition Leader has specific instances of wrongdoing on the part of any member of this Government, once she makes the specific allegation on a specific act I will be able to respond. But I’m not going to go flitting behind the Opposition Leader who is looking desperately for a scandal in this Government.”
Will he inquire? “If I require information about any minister’s conduct in my Cabinet, I will certainly do so but I don’t do so under the guidance of the Opposition Leader.”
Hitting Opposition Senator Wade Mark for claiming the Government had paid twice the price for two vessels, he said the Government won’t be distracted by an Opposition looking for a scandal like those of the UNC. Asked he was deflecting, he said, “No, I am not. I’ve been very clear in my position. If there’s an issue to be addressed, I’m braksing for nobody, but by the same token I’ll not be led down a rabbit hole with every UNC concern, every UNC suspect and every UNC conspiracy theory.”